Evaluation of Stem Rust Disease in Wheat Fields by Drone Hyperspectral Imaging

Jaafar Abdulridha, An Min, Matthew N. Rouse, Shahryar Kianian, Volkan Isler, Ce Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Detecting plant disease severity could help growers and researchers study how the disease impacts cereal crops to make timely decisions. Advanced technology is needed to protect cereals that feed the increasing population using fewer chemicals; this may lead to reduced labor usage and cost in the field. Accurate detection of wheat stem rust, an emerging threat to wheat production, could inform growers to make management decisions and assist plant breeders in making line selections. A hyperspectral camera mounted on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was utilized in this study to evaluate the severity of wheat stem rust disease in a disease trial containing 960 plots. Quadratic discriminant analysis (QDA) and random forest classifier (RFC), decision tree classification, and support vector machine (SVM) were applied to select the wavelengths and spectral vegetation indices (SVIs). The trial plots were divided into four levels based on ground truth disease severities: class 0 (healthy, severity 0), class 1 (mildly diseased, severity 1–15), class 2 (moderately diseased, severity 16–34), and class 3 (severely diseased, highest severity observed). The RFC method achieved the highest overall classification accuracy (85%). For the spectral vegetation indices (SVIs), the highest classification rate was recorded by RFC, and the accuracy was 76%. The Green NDVI (GNDVI), Photochemical Reflectance Index (PRI), Red-Edge Vegetation Stress Index (RVS1), and Chlorophyll Green (Chl green) were selected from 14 SVIs. In addition, binary classification of mildly diseased vs. non-diseased was also conducted using the classifiers and achieved 88% classification accuracy. This highlighted that hyperspectral imaging was sensitive enough to discriminate between low levels of stem rust disease vs. no disease. The results of this study demonstrated that drone hyperspectral imaging can discriminate stem rust disease levels so that breeders can select disease-resistant varieties more efficiently. The detection of low disease severity capability of drone hyperspectral imaging can help farmers identify early disease outbreaks and enable more timely management of their fields. Based on this study, it is also possible to build a new inexpensive multispectral sensor to diagnose wheat stem rust disease accurately.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4154
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by the US Department of Agriculture. The award number is: 58-5062-0-016 for funding this investigation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • classification
  • hyperspectral camera
  • reflectance
  • vegetation indices
  • wavelength

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Journal Article


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